The Gila River is the lifeblood of southwestern New Mexico. More than 300 species of birds live along the Gila River and the wildlife ranges from the reclusive mountain lion and endangered Lobo to the iconic Gila trout. Indigenous peoples have lived along the Gila for thousands of years relying on the Gila’s life giving waters to sustain their crops and their communities. Carving enchanting canyons through the Gila National Forest and flowing along ancient petroglyphs at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, the Gila River is a 649 mile tributary of the Colorado River that flows westward through New Mexico into Arizona.
Threats to the Gila River in New Mexico
The Gila River is the last major undammed river in New Mexico and remains largely unprotected from various threats of diversion. Permanent, large scale diversions of the Gila River would disrupt the habitat of thousands of important species as well as could drastically change the natural cycle of how the river has flowed for centuries, potentially impacting nearby businesses and tourism.
Earth Keepers on the Ground
Recognizing the importance of protecting the free flowing waters of the Gila that are considered Holy by many indigenous communities in the area, Spiritual leaders from Earth Keepers joined with Nuestra Tierra to help organize an on the ground field trip and Sabbath retreat for more than an dozen Catholic Priests from southern New Mexico and the area’s Archbishop to visit and hike along various river corridors, learn more about Gila’s wildlife and ecology, and practice fly-fishing. Worship was conducted along the river’s edge while Earth Keepers led various spiritual reflections focused on themes including the theology of wilderness, the sacred waters of baptism and hope springing forth from the desert. Having a chance to witness first hand the beauty of God’s creation at work in the Gila, following the trip the Archbishop penned an op-ed building off these spiritual themes and calling for the Gila to remain free flowing.
Earth Keepers is joining with various local organizations to support Wild and Scenic River designation for New Mexico’s Gila River. This will protect the health of the area’s ecosystem and ensure that future generations can access and enjoy the river as we do today. Only Congress can designate Wild and Scenic Rivers through legislation and Earth Keepers is encouraging spiritual leaders to voice their support to their congressional members in support of New Mexico’s Gila River Wild and Scenic Designation. To help further support of this congressional designation, Earth Keepers is also encouraging spiritual leaders to contact and submit comments to the Gila National Forest supporting key areas within the Gila National Forest that are important to protecting the river and adjacent areas.